The Straits Times | Mar 21, 2013
Complaints about the real estate industry are still coming in, but the rate has slowed down as recent efforts to better regulate the sector begin to bear fruit.
Since its inception in October 2010, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), the industry watchdog, has received 2,300 complaints, said Senior Minister of State for National Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin.
Mr Tan, who is also Acting Manpower Minister, was speaking at the inaugural Asia-Pacific Real Estate Convention and Expo at Marina Bay Sands yesterday. In his speech, he touched on the challenge of coping with rising consumer expectations.
The CEA said complaints have fallen by 20 per cent - from the average of five a day from the period after the statutory board was formed, to an average of four a day now.
Top complaints include those concerning unprofessional or poor service by sales staff, such as giving the wrong advice to clients and misleading advertisements or improper distribution of fliers, Mr Yeap Soon Teck, CEA's deputy director for licensing, told The Straits Times separately.
He added that complaints about misconduct by salespersons, such as misrepresentation or use of threatening words towards clients, are also on the list. CEA has settled close to 80 per cent of the cases so far.
Another challenge faced by the industry has to do with changing mindsets, Mr Tan added. He said this means moving beyond the mindset of closing a deal in the shortest time possible to striving for competency, integrity and professional conduct instead.
"As a regulator, CEA will investigate all complaints and take appropriate action against errant estate agents and salespersons," added Mr Tan. "However, the industry and estate agents have to do their part. To be professional, you need to be knowledgable and provide timely, accurate and reliable advice."
CEA has gained experience through handling a fair number of cases and it is also timely to review the Estate Agents Regulations to enhance its effectiveness, Mr Tan noted.
A Regulations Review Working Group was formed last year to address this. As a result, the Code of Ethics & Professional Client Care will be fine-tuned, while the Code of Practice will be enhanced to help estate agents better manage their recruitment efforts, sales staff's training and estate agency work.
Mr Tan added that the working group is refining licensing and registration requirements, while looking into ways to promote wider use of the resolution mechanism for disputes between estate agents and consumers. Proposals are being finalised.
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